Retro Rangers: Emile Francis and the Goal Judge

Goal judges are a part of hockey’s proud and sometimes innocent past. They have been replaced in the NHL by cameras and video reviews in the War Room in Toronto and perhaps it’s safer that way.

Arthur Reichert was a well respected fixture at both the “Old” and current Madison Square Garden, serving in a variety of capacities, but primarily as a goal judge. By his own estimate, he turned on the red light for “somewhere in the neighborhood of 12,000 goals” during a career that spanned from 1932 until his retirement in 1991. However, it was one goal (or non-goal) on the night of November 22, 1964 that caused all hell to break loose and became an unforgettable moment in Rangers lore.

I’ll let Emile Francis pick up the story from here.

“When I took over the Rangers they had made the playoffs once in ten years. So I knew it was gonna take me awhile to turn this thing around. I figured I could get it done in two years and I did. But you had to fight for every inch along the way. So we’re playing Detroit and they had Gordie Howe, Alex Delvecchio Terry Sawchuk, they were a great team. We’re leading 2-1 with about four minutes to go in the game, and the play comes down to our end. The puck comes out in front and Normie Ullman takes a quick wrist shot, and then everybody turned and went the other way, back up ice. All of a sudden the referee blows the whistle. So I’m wondering what the hell is going on here. So the ref goes and talks to the goal judge and then goes to the scorer’s bench and they put up a 2 on the scoreboard for Detroit. They scored! So I take off. I gotta squeeze in front of the first row of seats to get to the goal judge, Arthur Reichert. Now in those days the goal judge wasn’t in a booth, he just sat on a stool. So I said to Reichert, ‘what the hell are you doing putting that light on, that puck wasn’t in. The guy who knew better than you whether the puck went in, Ullman, turned and left right away and you put the light on.’

So there’s a guy sitting there and he says ‘why don’t you screw off’. I said ‘I’m not talking to you’. Well I turned back to Reichert and this guy stands up and he had two buddies on the other side of Reichert and there were beer cups all over the floor. We found out later when we went to court that they were three firemen on a night out, drinking beer. So when this guy stands up I figure I’m gonna get one punch in real quick and I nailed him and knocked him right over the seats.

So then his two friends jumped in. With that Vic Hadfield, who was back at center ice sees all this commotion and he and the rest of the players come over that glass like commandos. Zing – Zing – Zing. Meanwhile my wife’s wondering who the kook is that started the riot.

So now here we are, I had a new suit on that’s torn in half, I had cuts under both eyes, but we cleared out that whole end. It took about half an hour to straighten things out. They had to take those three guys to one room to stitch them up and took me to another room to stitch me up and Garden security comes in and says, ‘those guys didn’t know who you were and they’re sorry. You won’t bring any charges against them will you?’ I said no, no. forget it. It’s all part of the game.

So the next day Bill Jennings (Rangers President) comes in with a New York Post. He says, ‘How are you doing?’ I said not very good. About two hours ago a guy came in here and handed me this. I’m being sued for a million dollars!. He said ‘let me see that.’ Then he shows me Page three of the Post where there’s a story that Bruce Norris, owner of the Red Wings is being sued because he stole some guy’s wife. Jennings says ‘We’ll you’re in the big league’s now, you’re in the same league as Bruce Norris.’ I said, yeah but at least Norris had a nice time. Look at me for chrissakes, I’ve got two black eyes and I ruined a suit.

Well we got to court seven years later and we were there for a month. We were in the Supreme Court building in Brooklyn and towards the end of the trial they started renovating the building. They always brought the jury in behind the judge. But now because of the renovations they had to bring them out in front of me. The last guy on the jury put his hand out and said “good luck”. Well they said what did you say to him? He said “I’m a Ranger fan I said good luck”. Mistrial! They declared a mistrial. But we were back two years later and this time there was a different judge and jury and they were awarded $100,000.

Arthur Reichert was a real competent guy but I was fighting for the life of my hockey club. So not only did I invent the goal glove, but because of that incident they started to put the goal judge in a booth so nobody could get to them.

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